Website in extradition row no different to Google, court told

Published on Friday 4 November 2011 09:40

The website of a student facing extradition to the US for copyright infringement was merely operating in the same way as Google, a court has been told.

Richard O’Dwyer, a 23-year-old Sheffield Hallam University undergraduate, ran TVShack, which enabled people to watch film and television shows for free.

The US authorities say the films were pirate copies and want to try him for breaching copyright.

But at an extradition hearing yesterday his lawyer argued the website just pointed users to other sites where they could download films and TV shows.

At the hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Ben Cooper said: “His website linked to other websites in the same way Google and Yahoo operate. You were not able to view a film from TVShack directly.

“TVShack did not charge a subscription in the same way Google and Yahoo don’t. It generated income from advertising, just as Google does.”

John Jones, for the US government, told the court, however: “TVShack had the top films listed on the home page so it wasn’t merely a search engine.”

The case was adjourned until November 22 for a further hearing at the same court, and O’Dwyer, of Shoreham Street, Sheffield, was released on conditional bail.

O’Dwyer was supported by his mother Julia O’Dwyer, from Chesterfield. She said afterwards: “If people are committing a crime in England, they should be tried in this country. Is extradition proportional to the alleged crime? I don’t think it is.”

O’Dwyer’s case draws parallels with that of Gary McKinnon, who is also fighting extradition to the United States.

McKinnon, from Wood Green, north London, faces allegations that he hacked into US military computers.

He faces 60 years behind bars if convicted of hacking into Pentagon and Nasa computers between February 2001 and March 2002.

The US-UK extradition treaty, once branded “lopsided” in favour of US citizens by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, was the subject of a recent review by retired Judge Sir Scott Baker.

Sir Scott found the treaty to be “balanced and fair” and said it was not biased against Britons.

He decided against introducing measures to allow a judge to refuse extradition where the alleged offence took place wholly or largely in the UK.

Mr Clegg, when Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said British people do not understand why there was such an imbalance between the information required to extradite a UK citizen compared to the justification required to extradite US citizens to the UK.

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